We learn and imbibe values from our parents and ancestors. We bequeath values to our children and grandchildren.
Values are norms that make people’s behavior and relationship harmonious and pleasant, and to a certain extent, morally correct.
There are universal values that most civilized people adhere to and practice, such as parental love and children nurturing, obedience to a law, respect for authority. Or the Golden Rule: Do good and avoid evil.
However, there are racial values that shape and influence the social behavior of a race, like the American sense of independence and fair play, or the Chinese reverence for clan ancestor interdependence, the fatalism of the old Indian caste system, or the fundamentalist culture of some Middle Eastern people.
When we speak of Filipino values, we are simply talking to ourselves in our own familiar language, interacting with our fellow Filipinos and gaining acceptance and respect in the process.
When we discuss Filipino values with foreigners, we simply explain to them the meaning of our terms in their equivalent meaning. To an American, we explain “utang na loob” as an obligation to return a favor. Our behavior is likewise explained if it’s strange and misunderstood by them, such as a Filipino in New York sending home half of his dollar salary to finance the tuition fees of his younger brothers and sisters in the Philippines. It is filial obligation, Virginia, not mooching.
Up to the present, what we refer to as Filipino values are centered on family ties, religious practices, social covenant, and honor—values that give coherence and dignity to human life. More often than not, the correctness of the act corresponds to the morality of the act.
The Spanish and American rules strongly influenced Filipino family and social values by virtue of chronological proximity. These values have been proven durable, thriving under the difficult but continuing process of political maturity, industrial modernization, lifestyle evolutions, and Christian orientation.
The Spanish Period exposed the middle- and upper-class Filipinos to European ways of life and liberal political ideas. The Malay way of life began to adapt to western ways by adopting the English language, western architecture, rituals, celebrations, entertainment, furniture, clothing and appliances.
The hacienda and encomienda introduced social classes similar to European manors. The Spanish colonial elite defined the concept of upper class, quite different from that of the datu and island chieftains.
The Commonwealth Period brought politics and civil service to the level of a paradigm. The importance of education and the rise of professional careers gained momentum. Professionalism and public service were emphasized. Quality work was tutored and practiced. Industry and commerce took root, backed up by careers in commerce and entrepreneurship. Philippine products were exported and recognized internationally.
Filipino values thrive very well in rural and township communities where family life is intact. Income level does not provide for leisure, pleasure, and multi-brand usage and independent choice. The mother holds the purse strings, and the household is dependent on her budget management for their needs. The parents play an active role as guardians of morality, mentors of good social behavior and counsel to future careers and endeavors.
Urban centers and mega cities are the primary agents of change, due to the modernization of the workplace and the prevailing use of information technology. Lifestyle upgrade has ready merchandise for pleasure, leisure, fashion, entertainment, dining, and the arts.
While Filipino core values are perhaps more revered and practiced in rural and township communities, urban centers and mega cities tend to breed a youth population that may ignore and forget “old-fashioned” values, more so if the parents abdicated their roles as transmitter of values, the way their parents and grandparents did.
Don’t get fooled by today’s zeitgeist and juvenile subcultures. People are conservative at heart, especially when they become parents or grandparents.
Here are known and revered Filipino values that served us well in our efforts to live meaningful and fulfilling lives.
Workplace values: Marunong makisama (gets along well); may delicadeza (has probity); malinis ang pangalan (clean reputation); may integridad (has integrity); marunong makipagkapwa-tao (knows how to treat people well); may utang na loob (knows how to return a favor); may pakisama (people-oriented); may pagkukusa (has initiative); maparaan (resourceful); maaasahan (dependable); may palabra de honor (has word of honor).
Spiritual values: May takot sa Diyos (God-fearing); madasalin (prayerful); palasimba (mass goer); may dibosyon (has devotion); Kristiyano (Christian); may moralidad (has morals); mapagkawang-gawa (charitable).
Are we passing on our Filipino values to our children by persistently verbalizing them? (It needs repetition.) By exemplifying them in the way we live? (Seeing is believing.)
There’s a saying in Latin: Nemo dat quod habet. It means you cannot give what you do not have.
(The author is the 34th Catholic Mass Media Awardee for Best Special Feature and Best Opinion Column.)